I meet so many young people with only one cry, “please help me find a job”. It is always a tearful plight. Sometimes I wish I had capacity to just hire them all. But of course I don’t.
Unemployment is the single biggest threat to national security that we face today. It is a ticking time bomb which can in time make the country ungovernable. Organised crime will soar, as the educated throw their arms into the air in desperation. The public purse will come under more strain as more babies are born to parents who cannot afford to take care of them. We are on a downward spiral to doomsday and unless we do something and do it in a hurry, we are going the way of failed states.
For a moment I was somewhat delighted that the politicians seemed to be taking notice that so many of our young people roam the streets with skills the market cannot absorb. Well, maybe there is no market to begin with. The opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), were first off the blocks promising a hundred thousand jobs in twelve months and hemp as their main remedy. There was no real structure, let alone economic thinking or planning behind the promise. Just a charm offensive to get a virgin to bed. The harvesting of youth votes seemed to be the sole objective, without more. On the other hand, the ruling party was all over the show promising electric cars and nothing of substance relative to their plight. Nothing concrete was on offer, in terms of job figures and solutions. In the meantime, real institutions and corner street educational contraptions are planning their next graduation ceremonies. The manifestos of these two political giants have nothing tangible with regards to where they are going. The youth are the most neglected and most exploited constituency in Botswana politics.
But where do we start? Let us start with the basics. Let us incentivize the retirement of those over the age of fifty five and create more space for the young ones at the bottom. Most of them hold key positions which can be fractured and can translate into many jobs without having to put pressure on the public purse. The approval of the Pemandu report should pacify those with grand career ambitions whilst focus shifts to the unemployed. Going forward government must focus on capitalising and maximising gains on all extant opportunities for job creation. We need a commission on that with a clear mandate and terms of reference.
Secondly, let us scale down on wastage in order to free resources for job creation. Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Prados must not in the public budget anymore except for the President and his Deputy. Ministers must be content with Corollas or equivalent. By the way, corollas can also
Luxuries should leave the public budget and no public wealth should be lavished on status symbols. Only diplomatic heads should fly business or higher and entertainment allowances should be scrapped. It’s a time for austerity. We cannot be having a situation where our children roam the streets while council secretaries roll on Jeeps and top of the range German cars. The same must extend to parastatal heads. Government must come up with a strict and binding policy on all these matters as a way of conserving meagre resources for job creation. The conservation of meagre resources will free income for public works which will absorb some of those roaming the streets. Which brings me to another point.
One of the biggest contributors to unemployment is corruption by Cabinet ministers and state operatives in key positions. The armed forces, for example, are the most corrupt institutions in the civil service. It is the duty of the President to put that to an end and to ensure that independent ethics committees exist capable of ensuring that there is no needless deployment of capital, tender price inflations, in adherence to procurement ethics and corruption. These institutions have stolen lots of jobs and livelihoods from Batswana and continue to do so, the Prisons Service being the newest entrant in the corruption blitz. The armed forces must be stopped before they sink us.
And yes, the absence of procurement ethics ensures that foreign companies import labour and push Batswana out of the job market. Asian companies, used to cheap labour, are especially guilty of this. Well it is for a reason. They enjoy the largesse because they have overtime been in bed with the country leadership who benefitted either from direct monetary rewards or kickbacks of one form or another.
Someone long called on the private sector to use local talent in marketing and advertising efforts. Government must intervene on this score and a compulsive solution must be found to ensure that at least seventy five percent of their revenue is expended on the procurement of local talent and further that it is shared broadly across a wider pool of industry players.
There is surely a lot that can be done without hitting our heads against the walls about expanding the economy. The unemployment situation is not just a problem resultant from an economy that cannot expand, but also, from one that is being artificially shrunk by corrupt leaders. We can do more with the less we have. There is just too much wastage.